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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (December 1, 1933)

Major Mair's Career

Major Mair's Career.

William G. Mair, the elder of the two soldier brothers, was born at Wahapu, where his father had at the beginning of the Forties a large trading establishment. Maori was as much his tongue as English from his earliest years, and, as with his brother, his perfect mastery of the language largely determined the bent of his life's work. His first opportunity of making his accomplishments known came in 1863, when the Waikato War began. He joined the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, organised in Auckland by a veteran British soldier, Colonel Marma-duke Nixon and received a commission as Ensign, and before long he was acting as an interpreter to the Commander of the Forces, General Cameron. He saw his well-beloved Colonel mortally wounded in the fight at Rangiaowhia early in 1864, and ran to his assistance and helped to carry him off under fire. At the siege of Orakau a little later he took part in the cavalry charge on the first day, and in the final scenes of that famous battle he was one of the most prominent figures, for it was he who conveyed the General's call to surrender to the Maori garrison. He stood at the head of the British sap, with the muzzles of the Maori guns pointed at him over the parapet less than twenty feet away. His coolness in that and many other thrilling moments prompted one of the British staff officers, with memories of his classics, to christen him Julius Placidus.

In those closing episodes of the Waikato War, Mair was useful to his Commander as an intelligence officer, gaining information about the Maoris and the country; and he fired the last shot in the campaign, in a kind of unofficial reconnaissance out beyond Orakau, where the present much-travelled motor road from Te Awamutu goes up to Aratitaha, on the way to Arapuni.